The Model Minority Myth: Why Being the United States Model Hurts?

By Jessica Mejia

Asian American are “so smart and successful in everything” (Um, p. 5) but does this clique define the entire Asian American and Pacific Islander community? It would be wonderful if this were true for everybody. However, the reality is that everybody is different. Just like Latinos have unique backgrounds, the Asian American community is also unique in their culture and resources. The common misconception in the United States is that race defines who you are and who you are going to become, however, heterogeneity is real and ignoring it is not the answer. Ignoring heterogeneity of ethnicities, class, gender and students backgrounds leads to academic profiling and division among schools (Ochoa, P.255). For example, Vietnamese are categorize as highly-selected, which means a significant portion of them are poorly educated and have not graduated high school. At the same time, a small part of Vietnamese are highly educated and have attained a college degree (Lee, P.30), but do people in the news or individuals in the government have knowledge of their disparities when they talk about them? As much as we would like this to be true, the answer is No. Vietnamese are assume to be Chinese immigrants. Therefore, they are under the umbrella of hyper-selected immigrants that are highly educated and successful (Lee, P.32).

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In many cases, people think that this is entirely inaccurate because researchers have proven that Asian Americans are always accepted to elite institutions like UC universities and Ivy Leagues (Lew et al., P.65). However, if you break up Asian American into ethnicities, the common misbelief will dismantle into pieces. Well, perform research has shown that a huge amount of Asian Americans, in particular, the Southeast Asian American, attend community colleges. Although the number of researchers focusing on AAPI in community colleges is small, the few articles have proven that at the national level Southeast Asian attendance in prestigious universities is low. Challenges faced by AAPI in the education is broad and extensive, and it becomes apparent that the model is a fantasy that was created to hide the struggles of many with the achievements of few. It is time to understand that the Model Minority Myth does not exist, it might have been true in 1966 when sociologist Williamson Peterson invented the term; however, we were not in 1966. We are in 2017, a place where diversity is real and not a myth.

Um, Khatharya. A dream denied: educational experiences of Southeast Asian American youth: issues and recommendations. Washington, DC: Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, 2003. Print.

Ochoa, Gilda L. Academic profiling: Latinos, Asian Americans, and the achievement gap. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota Press, 2013. Print.

Lee, Jennifer, and Min Zhou. The Asian American achievement paradox. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2015. Print.

Lew, Jonathan W., June C. Chang, and Winnie W. Wang. UCLA Community College Review: The Overlooked Minority Asian Pacific American Students in Community Colleges. 2nd ed. Vol. 33. N.p.: Community College Review, n.d. Print.

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